In the last decade, there has been growing awareness of wellbeing and its importance, and an increase in the development of activities or programmes aimed at improving wellbeing. The purpose of this study was to investigate what wellbeing programmes were being offered to prisoners in England and Wales and what benefits and other outcomes were experienced.

The study used a mixed methods exploratory design in two phases. Phase 1 was a questionnaire survey of all adult prisons in England and Wales, completed by prison staff. In Phase 2, a sample of survey respondents took part in in-depth interviews.

The programmes identified in Phase 1 included physical activities, creative arts, mindfulness, horticulture, reading, and animal assisted activities. Prison staff reported a range of universally positive outcomes shared by all programmes, including enthusiasm from prisoners, enjoyment of the activities, and being able to do something different from the usual prison routine. However, in Phase 2, interviewees rarely mentioned direct health and wellbeing benefits. The impetus for programmes was varied, and there was little reference to national policy on health and wellbeing; this reflected the ad hoc way in which programmes are developed, with a key role being played by the Wellbeing Officer, where these were funded.

The literature on wellbeing programmes in prisons is limited and tends to focus on specific types of initiatives, often in a single prison. This study contributes by highlighting the range of activities across prisons and elucidating the perspectives of those involved in running such programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-274
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number3
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2022


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